Caitlin Kelch

DIY Floating Window Shelves

Black thumb be damned, I love filling my home with plants. Prickly cactus, chubby-leaved succulents and sprawling ivy are my favorite types of greenery. Mainly because they are the easiest to care for, and I don’t have the best track record. In spite of my plant-murdering ways, I clearly see the benefits of houseplants. They are beautiful, they clean the air, and they can even improve your mood.

It seems like every other day I’m vacuuming soil and nursing a broken plant back into a tipped pot. Thanks, cats! I created these built-in clear shelves to get my plants off my windowsill and, bonus, I was able to add a lot more color and greenery into my life. These minimal shelves provide lots of direct light, so they’re great for cacti, succulents and herbs. And while they don’t block too much light, they provide a bit of privacy, too.

These shelves work great for smaller windows. This one is about 24 inches wide. I chose to use acrylic for my shelves because it’s lightweight, safer than glass (since these are not screwed in), and easy to remove to clean. You could easily substitute wood for the brackets — painted to match your window — and glass for the shelves. The acrylic does bow a bit with the weight of the plants. If you’d like to display heavier objects or if you have wider windows I’d suggest using glass, which you can easily get cut at your local frame shop. —Jessica Marquez


– Measuring tape
– Painter’s tape
– Acrylic shelf (you can get acrylic sheets cut and brackets cut to size here)
– Acrylic square rod “brackets” (These are not traditional brackets, but are easy to install and support the shelf like a traditional bracket would.)
– 9/64 drill bit
– Ruler
– Pencil
– Level
– Sheet Metal Screws, size 6 x 1 1/4


Step 1

Using a measuring tape, measure the width and depth of your window. My window was 24 5/8 x 4.5″. I wanted the shelves to fit flush into the window, so I made sure the measurement was just a hair shy of the full width. To save a bit on the cost of materials, I got 4″ deep shelves, instead of 4.5″. In total, I got four 1/4″ thick acrylic shelves cut at Canal Plastic Center along with nine 5/8″ x 4″ square acrylic rods.

Step 2

Using painter’s tape, plan the layout of your shelves. Allow for some room for your plants to grow.

Step 3

Drill two holes in support brackets. To speed up the drill process, I taped the bracket pieces side by side onto a piece of scrap wood and marked on the tape the center point where the holes would be drilled.

NOTE: If you are using acrylic brackets drill very slowly! As you’re drilling, pull the drill bit out every few seconds. The drill bit heats up as you drill and can melt the acrylic if you drill too fast without breaks. I had a craft fail with my first drill bit, which got permanently stuck in the acrylic. Glad I ordered one extra bracket piece.

Step 4

Mark where your brackets will be installed on one side of the windowsill. With a ruler and level, mark a level line along the depth of the window sill. Measure from the bottom up using your taped window guide as a reference point. Once you have your level measurement for the first bottom shelf, you can measure up from there. Each of my shelves were 13″ apart.

Step 5

Mark the opposite side of the windowsill where the brackets will be installed. Start with the bottom shelf. Use a leveled shelf lined up with your previous marks on the opposite side of the windowsill to create a level line along the depth of the windowsill. Once you have the level mark for the bottom shelf, you can measure up from there using the same distance between shelves as you did on the opposite side. Remember to level each shelf.

Step 6

Drill in screws. It helps to screw in one side halfway, level the bracket, and screw in the other side. Then you can completely drill in both screws. Repeat this step for all of your brackets. Now you’re ready to drop in your shelves, which rest right on the brackets and decorate.

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